Law School Celebrates Professor Lynda Butler’s Decades of Service

  • Celebration
    Celebration  During the reception, Dean A. Benjamin Spencer presented Professor Butler with a framed resolution honoring her years of service to the Law School and university. “Put simply, Lynda does it all," said Dean Spencer. "She has made her mark on this law school, and it is significantly stronger for her efforts.”  Photo by David F. Morrill
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Everyone has a favorite Lynda Butler memory.

So said William & Mary Law Dean A. Benjamin Spencer as he hosted a retirement reception for Professor Emerita Lynda L. Butler on Friday, September 30, after the conclusion of the annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference. View the slideshow.

And the memories came. More than 40 years’ worth.

“When I first washed up on the Law School shores in August 1998, it quickly become apparent to me that Professor Butler was one of the leading members of the law faculty and, indeed, a force in the university as a whole,” said  W. Taylor Reveley, III, President Emeritus, former Law Dean and John Stewart Bryan Professor of Jurisprudence.

Reveley, who appointed Butler as his vice dean for nearly a decade, went on to praise Butler for being “a master teacher, revered by her students.”

“She's been a highly productive scholar; she’s served on an inhuman number of university committees and commissions and so forth,” Reveley continued. “She's been a major force in William & Mary’s sustainable efforts for decades; at the Law School, she has led our Property Rights Project and seen that its annual conferences and prize for scholarly excellence have become high generators of recognition and acclaim for the Law School.”

Joining the festivities via Zoom, Patricia Roberts ’92, Dean and Charles E. Cantu Distinguished Professor of Law at St. Mary's University School of Law and a former vice dean at William &Mary Law, offered her heartfelt memories as a former student of Butler’s and as a colleague.

“I couldn't ask for a better teacher in every sense of the word,” Roberts said. “Lynda is no nonsense in her professional and her personal life, paving the way as one of the first female law professors at William & Mary, and serving as vice dean and first female law dean.”

In addition to tireless work as an administrator, Butler has offered a wealth of insightful legal scholarship over the years. Professor Eric Kades, Thomas Jefferson Professor of Law, was on hand to share his praise of her work, from the practical to the highly theoretical.

“One uncommon feature of this work is its true value not just to the bar, but the profession of scholars as well,” Kades said.

Kades went on to describe how, at the theoretical end, Butler has explored, among other things, the political economy of takings law, the need to view property as an integrated system of laws, and the problems raised by extremist views on property both left and right.

“Lord knows that we need centrists in this age,” Kades said. “Indeed, her work on property’s problems with extremes places in high relief some of her distinguishing strengths as a scholar, an intuitive understanding, the central issues of property law, a good nose for areas in which the law and the scholarship, or both, have gone awry. It is good old fashioned common sense in the face of extreme positions from either flank.”

During the reception, Dean Spencer presented Butler with a framed resolution honoring her years of service to the Law School and university. 

In honor of her contributions as a teacher and a mentor, James D. Penny '83 and James A. Penney '83 made lead gifts to establish the Lynda Butler Law Scholarship Endowment

“Year after year, decade after decade, Lynda rolls up her sleeves and gets to work,” Spencer said. “Put simply, Lynda does it all. She has made her mark on this law school, and it is significantly stronger for her efforts.”

Rounding off the evening, Butler expressed her gratitude to the many friends she has made on the faculty, staff and student body over the years. She also praised how much she has learned from them.

“What has improved my scholarship is always talking to somebody I disagree with—and on a faculty, that's not hard to find,” Butler said. “That has really helped me grow as a scholar. And then the staff here are just dynamite; they’re so supportive. I want to thank you all for everything over these 40 plus years.”

An undergraduate alumna of William & Mary’s Class of 1973, Professor Butler enjoys the distinction of being William & Mary’s longest-serving female faculty member. She served in myriad leadership roles at the university and Law School, including eight years as vice dean, and from 2008-09 as interim dean (she is the first woman to serve as a law school dean in Virginia). Professor Butler continues to lead the Property Rights Project and its renowned Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference. In 2019, William & Mary honored her with the Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr., Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching.

Read more about Professor Butler in the September issue of Williamsburg's Next Door Neighbors Magazine (starting on p. 58).

About William & Mary Law School
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America’s first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.